Small Sparks

Watch here for more SMALL SPARKS!



Small Sparks is a creative programming initiative aimed at inspiring a broad range of people in the TvO community to participate in informal activities that build on a pleasure, passion or interest of theirs to bring people together. Yes, we need to keep careful physical distancing at this time but we do NOT want social distancing. On the contrary, we want to build community as much as possible and help avoid isolation, even as we remain careful about safety.

Dates and times will be announced in the newsletter, along with information as to whether they will be in-person or virtual.

Do you have a Small Sparks idea?
If you have questions or the kernel of an idea of some way you might be able to create a Small Spark at TvO out of one of your pleasures, passions or interests, please contact Jeff Bercuvitz at

Here are some past Small Sparks:

“A Single Step”  Hosted by Lara Estroff and Dalia Bosworth
Saturday, February 19 Lara and Dalia welcomed families with b’nai mitzvah aged kids to join them for a walk in the Dryden/Ithaca area, during which people will share stories of journeys they have taken. 

Savoring Marge Piercy, with Martha Armstrong, Saturday, March 19, 2-4 pm, in person at TVO

Come get more familiar with Marge Piercy’s poetry and spend some time writing poetry together. Bring a couple of your favorite Marge Piercy poems if you have them. (Don’t worry if you don’t have any to bring.) We will read poems and talk about why they are moving. Then we will write some poems inspired by these themes.  Meeting in person at TVO, please wear a mask.

“Kosher Pixelswith Chris Xenakis
April 10 and May 21 and June 18, 5 pm on Zoom
Chris is inviting interested TvO members and friends to take a picture (or take several pictures; even cell phone snapshots are fine!) and share them with one another on Zoom. Chris wants to know what your favorite photo(s) mean to you, and/or how your special photos connect with a meaningful part of your life that you want to share. Like Planet Fitness, this is a judgment-free zone—none of us are expert or professional photographers (at least Chris says he is not). 
We are going to experiment with a monthly Zoom gathering in March, April and May and then decide where we go from there.  Kosher Pixels is not a TvO Photography Club…yet. It may turn into one, or this could be a three-month standalone experience.
For the month of March, Chris is inviting people to share one or more favorite photographs, along the loose theme of “Just In Spring….” (or feel free to share any photograph that is meaningful to you.) 

Jew-bilation with Jeff Bercuvitz
Saturday, April 2, 3-5 pm, in person at TVO and on Zoom
This will be a one-time happening, modeled after our avodah service during the High Holidays. Each person will have 3-5 minutes to share a story of a Jewish experience they had (or a Jewish poem or song) that really inspired them in some way. We may discuss some elements of those and what we mean when we say we want to be “inspired.”

TORAH TUESDAY” Tuesday, April 5, 7-8 pm in person at TVO
Instead of “Taco Tuesday,” come chew on some Torah with Carol Shama. At our first discussion we will decide the direction of our group but we are picturing lively discussions that show that there are no “boring Torah portions,” only portions that have not yet been brought to life.  We will look at the text in English and different commentaries, and then share our own reflections on the text.  The discussion will be free floating, irreverent, and hopefully educational and entertaining.  

Apple Spirits and Awakened Hearts with Tony Gaenslen and Fran Markover
Sunday, April 24, time TBA
Tony and Fran will be reading from their recently published works: The Miracle of an Awakened Heart can, and often does, take place in the darkest of times and places. Tony will share his experiences, and two of his favorite poems, recited while on a Mississippi Death-row cell.
The ordinary becomes sacred in Grandfather’s Mandolin. Fran will share poems that reflect survival and loss, remembrance, an honoring of family and how they live on in blessed memory and in the lingering music of their struggles.

“Write On!” with Annie Wexler Tuesdays April 26, May3, May 10 
 1-2:30 pm  in person at Annie’s house
A writer? Who me? That is what I said to myself when I signed up for my first creative writing group some 20 years ago. And I discovered that it was fun and easy. My writing instructor said, “if you can hold a pen, you have something to say.” This will be a group for people to get together to write and share and have fun. We will learn simple techniques and learn how to silence the “inner critic“ so our thoughts can flow without self judgment. Three sessions beginning in mid to late April. Group will be limited to 8 participants. 

Stories That Zoom Led by Bruce McKee and Jonathan (JP) Plotkin 
(dates in April to be determined on two consecutive weeks) on Zoom
In a 60-90 minute on-line session, limited to 8 people, JP and Bruce will join forces to help people learn how to make stories come alive on Zoom.
They will provide technical pointers, starting with the basics, for how to record stories over Zoom. This will include: how to capture decent video (lighting, framing etc.) and audio (proximity to microphone, avoiding ambient noise etc.), then add Zoom-specific information like tweaking audio and video settings, as well as how to manage the recording process and share the recorded media. Participants will choose a physical object that is imbued with meaning for them, such as a souvenir from a trip, a cherished family heirloom, or something they made or was made by a child, and then the leaders will introduce a process for talking about the object. People will join with a partner in a breakout room for 10 minutes where they will take turns asking and telling, while recording their sessions. They will then re-join the full group to share their experiences and ideas and discuss possibly following up with an interview of a real person and then meet again a week later to share interviews and suggestions.

Sunday November 13, 2022 2-4 pm “Out There” Led by: Martha Armstrong, Shane, and Jeff Bercuvitz

Sharing our visions for TvO’s space, especially our 4 acres of land. We are inviting children and TvO members of all ages to bring your creativity and imaginations to help inspire some visions of what you would love us to create together on the land around our building … and maybe what changes you think we should make in the building itself. What do you think could help us have the feelings and the experiences we want to have? What would make our TvO space more special, more beautiful, more inspiring, more welcoming, more ecological and also more accommodating of our needs? What would you love to see?


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